Mid-Year Top 25 (2014)

We’re at that point in time where we’ve reached the midpoint for the year. The latter half of 2013 brought us some of the most memorable and groundbreaking films in years. There was no way that 2014 could live up to it, yet I’m sitting here with 25 films that I have absolutely loved. Ranging from big studio hits, to small Art House indies, this year has proved to be pretty stellar thus far. With all the Oscar films still to be released in the coming months, take a look at my list below and hopefully you’ll discover some of the same gems that I have. I honestly believe that there’s something for everyone on this list, so go out and find a great movie before it’s too late! Here’s to the rest of what’s looking to be another extraordinary year in film! Without further ado, my Mid-Year Top 25 of 2014!

25. Neighbors
Neighbors succeeds on almost every comedic front and it’s plethora of jokes and shocking scenarios are enough to get you dying of laughter. Zac Efron redeems himself as a comedy star and Seth Rogen continues to impress with his weed-loving habits and no-restraint attitude. With great supporting characters and a hilarious balance of frat life and family life, this film will appeal to most people and may even be relatable for some as well. It’s crazy and ridiculous, but it manages to be truthful in the process and that makes it all the more hysterical. This is easily the funniest film I’ve seen in a awhile and it’s one that people will surely flock to the theater to go see. Just make sure you go with the right people, else you’re in for an uncomfortable time.

24. The Muppets Most Wanted
The Muppets Most Wanted is a lot of fun and it’s one of the better film’s I’ve seen in 2014. It’s not as good as it’s most recent predecessor, but the film even acknowledges that in its first song, stating “everybody knows that the sequel’s never quite as good.” The characters are all back in tiptop-shape  and they’re all having a great time. There was never a shortage of celebrity cameos and the film still sends a lot of great messages out. I liked it much more than colleagues of mine, but I’d like to think that’s because I can still connect with my inner child. If you have a heart, you’re going to like this movie.

23. Noah
Noah is the latest film from the visionary mind of director Darren Aronofsky (The Wrestler, Black Swan, Requiem For A Dream). Not only is this film an epic take on a classic story, but Aronofsky remains true to his vision and understanding of the story of Noah. Some artistic liberties are taken, as this is a movie, but this film remains true to the values and lessons that the story was supposed to evoke. The visuals are stylized and stellar and the acting is, for the most part, superb. There’s a lot to enjoy with this film, regardless of your religious affiliations (that you should check at the door if you want to have a good time).

22. The Amazing Spider-Man 2
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is everything that it needed to be and that some would want it to be. I wasn’t head-over-heels for The Amazing Spider-Man, but there were some great elements to it that I really admired. Andrew Garfield is a perfect Spider-Man and that only becomes more apparent in this new film. He seems like the high schooler that he should be and his on-screen chemistry with Emma Stone is a beauty. This film doesn’t leave everything up to big action sequences and unnecessary boss fights, because it actually takes the time to explore its characters and build relationships. That’s why, in my opinion, this film is such a success.

21. Blue Ruin
Blue Ruin is a slow burner revenge film that is absolutely electrifying to watch unfold. With one of the best arcs for a character that I’ve seen, this film invests you in the main character’s life and you follow him come hell, or high waters. With bursts of graphic violence and language, this film always keeps you on your toes and guessing at what may happen next. The suspense never waivers and this film takes a very different approach to the whole revenge genre. It’s just so fresh and fun, which makes it all the more interesting to watch.

20. Cold In July
Cold In July manages to fit multiple styles of film-making into one, crazy and tense film. With twists and turns coming from every which way, you’re always on your toes and you’re never sure of what’s coming next. All three of the leads do a great job with showcasing their characters and their development and they carry this story to the darkest of places. For me, I really loved the thematic elements that this film plays off of and the different directions it takes, as everything is explained with detail and makes sense in the end. Accompanied by a riveting score, Cold In July manages to hit most nails right on the head.

19. The Fault In Our Stars

faultFor a majority of the time, I really liked this film and that’s due to the fact that there were extraordinary actors working with extraordinary writers. They made most everything believable and I loved what I was seeing and hearing, especially anything involving Woodley. She and Nuestadter & Weber need to collaborate more often, as their work in The Spectacular Now still remains my favorite tale of love. This film could have been better though, especially in the hands of another director. Josh Boone‘s whimsical style of direction works for bits and pieces of the film, but he applies that style to moments that don’t need, or deserve it and he took me out of the film with his attempt to make things more sad than they had to be. Most of this film is really great, but it had the potential to be that much better. Still, throw all the awards at Woodley, Neustadter, and Weber!

18. The LEGO Movie
The LEGO Movie has done something very original and very cool. Its managed to take a beloved childhood “toy” and make it fun for people of all ages. LEGO has partnerships with so many different franchises and it utilizes those partnerships to make this film feel somewhat familiar, while also having it stand in a league of its own. I was hesitant about this film at first, but now, I really love it and I can’t wait to go see it again. There’s something really special about this film and there’s no doubt in my mind that this film is going to become a big hit for all audiences.

17. Dom Hemingway
Dom Hemingway has got to be one of the most eccentric films I’ve ever seen and it has a masterclass performance to take it to even greater heights. There’s always something new and exciting happening in this film and that aspect never lets up. The fact that this film takes place in sort-of an English underground is telling of its subject matter and in some ways, this film feels like a companion to Nicolas Winding Refn‘sBronson. Both have tremendous lead actors willing to do whatever in their respective roles and the performances really help their ludicrous stories. After seeing this film, I’m never going to view Jude Law the same.

16. Godzilla
Godzilla is going to meet and exceed a lot of people’s expectations, but it may also befuddle some people. By no means is this film bad. It’s just not. However, it may be misconstrued, as it’s a Godzilla film that resembles the original Toho Godzilla films and places them in a modern and realistic setting. The world that is created in this film is one bustling with mythology and nature and the laws of nature play a large role in it. Man can only do and control so much and that’s more than evident, as even our best weapons couldn’t kill the “King of the Monsters”.

15. How To Train Your Dragon 2
how-to-train-your-dragon-2-poster11How To Train Your Dragon 2
 had a lot to live up to, as How To Train Your Dragon was one of my favorite films in 2010. It was a film that I was reluctant to see, but I’m so thankful that I did! Now, I’m pleased to say the sequel delivered on almost every single level and managed to find a unique and separate voice of its own. Ranging from wildly entertaining, to breathtakingly touching, this film will resonate well with every age group and leave you feeling satisfied after many laughs and some good tears.

14. 22 Jump Street
22 Jump Street is the stuff of sequel legend. It’s hard enough to make a comedy film successful and great in the first place. It’s even harder to make a comedy sequel worthwhile, but that seemed like a relatively easy task for this film. Smartly playing against type, while also playing around with your typical sequel clichés, 22 Jump Street manages to best its predecessor (which is one of the best comedy’s of the last few decades) and remain consistently funny all throughout the film. There have been many comparisons to Scream 2 and those are completely valid, because this film is just a blast and it thrives off of its meta take on Hollywood and sequels.

13. Venus In Fur
Venus in Fur is the latest play-to-film adaptation from director Roman Polanski and it’s really something else. With touchy subject matter and the possibility to go way too far in some instances, this film flourishes in its tameness and because of the sexual chemistry between the two leads. A play within a film, Venus in Fur is certainly puzzling at times, but it’s wonderful deciphering it and following its characters as they get deeper into other characters. Polanski and his cast of two clearly had fun making this film and its ability to keep your interest as it delves into “interesting” subject matter is remarkable.

12. The Rover
The Rover benefits a refreshing look at the post-apocalyptic world, primarily because it wastes no time exploring why and how things went wrong. We jump right into the life of someone who’s survived that and we see the degradation of the world through his eyes and his experiences. This storytelling method allows for more focus on the characters, while also allowing their reactions to certain events tell stories of their own. With such a diverse range of characters, we’re also exposed to the many possibilities of survival that exist in this world and we can infer the things they’ve seen and done to make it this far. This is how more films should be done, because too often they get caught up in their own world and lose the value of story and characters.

11. Snowpiercer
Snowpiercer is one of the strangest and most creative graphic novels that could have been adapted into a film. So much could have gone wrong with the stories video game-like setup, but this film didn’t disappoint, nor did it sacrifice much from the novel. This has got to be one of the coolest and most igneous films that I’ve seen in a very long time. On top of that, this film employs actors of every race and doesn’t blink an eye about it! In those terms and in terms of the epic action, we need more films like Snowpiercer.

10. Captain America: The Winter Soldier
CAPTAIN-AMERICA-QUAD-600x300Captain America: The Winter Soldier is by far and away the best Marvel Cinematic Universe film that I’ve ever seen and I absolutely loved every second of it. Not only does it have the best story of any of the MCU films, but the action and spy aspects of the film elevate it above the rest. The sequences where Captain America recounts his past and is trying to adapt to current times are all fantastic and his banter with Nick Fury, Black Widow, and The Falcon is hilarious. This movie is the perfect popcorn flick and it’s actually a really amazing movie too. I couldn’t wait to talk about this film and when I think back on it, there’s not a thing that I would change. Man, I loved this film and I can’t wait to see it multiple times.

9. X-Men: Days of Future Past
X-Men: Days of Future Past sought to combine the characters and stories from X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: First Class, and The Wolverine, and it does that with excellence. For all the plot holes that could (and may still exist) exist, this film manages to fill those with dialogue and events that allow for a refreshing of the last films and characters who can have fun with this new time-travelling conundrum. Though this film is not as action-heavy as most would like/expect, Days of Future Past focuses all its time on the characters we know (young and old) and how they unite for a common cause.  Their teamwork and mission is incredibly enjoyable to watch and all of the performances and powers leave a big impact.

8. Palo Alto
James-Franco-Emma-Watson-600x300Palo Alto goes a few steps beyond the line that tries to define teenage films. Rather than compromising on swear words and bad situations, the film fully embraces them as fact and uses them without remorse. This aspect, combined with a knockout cast that nails being a teenager on the head, creates a realistic atmosphere that’s relatable for anyone currently in High School, or once was. You know these people and you may even be like some of these people. You know the situations and the though processes. It’s rare to find a film that captures those four years so well.

7. Under the Skin
Under the Skin easily stands out as one of the year’s best and most important pieces of Science Fiction. Its exploration of human nature and self-exploration through an “alien” perspective works astoundingly well and it paints a somewhat grim picture of the societal norms that are present today. The film is all kinds of eerie and experimental and fortunately, those two things only make it better and have been the reason for so many Stanley Kubrick comparisons.

6. Chef

Chef is a wonderfully delightful new film directed and written by Jon Favreau. Not only does it evoke immense hunger as you watch delicious food being cooked and served, but it also strikes a lot of familial chords. It’s a film that wakes you up and reminds you that nothing feels better than doing what you’re passionate about and with a lovely cast at hand, Chef certainly entertains on numerous levels. Everyone’s said it after watching the film and I cannot emphasize enough that you shouldn’t go see this film on an empty stomach. With such an all-around good-looking cast, it’s incredible how much more beautiful the food is.

5. The Grand Budapest Hotel
The_Grand_Budapest_Hotel_39878The Grand Budapest Hotel is the latest addition to the works of Wes Anderson and I believe it’s simply the best work that he’s ever done. His characters are richer than ever and they’re also more absurd than ever. The plot of the film is that of a dozen little films in one and I loved that. There are so many moving parts (not including the miniature gondola sets) to this film and there’s never a dull moment. This film is hilarious at times and very serious at other times. It’s really the best of all quirky worlds.

4. Joe
joe-nicolas-cageJoe is the latest film from David Gordon Green and it’s by far and away my favorite film of his. This film looks at the backwoods of Texas and the kinds of people who inhabit it. The rules are different there and despite having a police force, wrongdoings still occur and there’s an outlaw sense to this town. You get a view into many different ways of life and even an odd job that serves a purpose. Familial values are present in this film, as are those of ethics and self-preservation. The crazy thing about this film is that it’s grounded in reality and never feels like a work of fiction. You can feel for these characters and picture that they exist and have the problems that they do. Tye Sheridan and Nicolas Cage give two of the year’s best performances!

3. Edge of Tomorrow
eotEdge of Tomorrow is the epitome of outstandingly awesome summer movies that we all look forward to. Not only is it filled to the brim with action, but it’s also a really smart and often hilarious story that sets it apart from what we’ve seen lately. With mech-suits galore and one of the creepiest/coolest enemies of late, there are limitless engaging scenes that will appeal to anyone and a complex story of time and repetition that prove to be increasingly entertain as the story goes on. I just had the most entertaining time watching this film and I only wish that I could reset the day and watch this film over, and over again.

2. Locke
Locke 600x300Locke finds a way to be completely different in terms of your average film, while still managing to find familiar beats that people can relate to. For being a one-man-show that takes place in a singular setting, Locke maintains your fascination with the titular character and his ongoing dilemma. This film defies all the rules of your average expectations of a film and it manages to present an intimate stage play within the realm of film.

1. Enemy
ENEMY-03 (1)I was very impressed with last year’s Prisoners, as I was able to decipher the truth and connect the dots after doing a lot of theorizing and clue finding. Enemy, also directed by Prisoners director Denis Villanueve, left me with a similar process after watching it unfold. I was: confused, unsure, excited, slightly disturbed, and very intrigued by what I saw and piecing together the puzzle was a lot of the same. The concept of this film is what got me hooked and Gyllenhaal’s recent works made me all the more excited. Every aspect of this film is meant to confuse, but it’s also meant to give you things to consider and dwell upon. It took me a while to figure this film out, but I really liked it in the end.

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